The Southeast Asia (SEA) region as one of the fastest growing economies, being the 3rd largest in Asia and the 5th in the world, is projected to triple its energy demand by 2050. Energy outlook for the region will primarily consist of coal (33.8%), natural gas (26.1%), and hydropower (21.6%). The projected energy demand in the region would mean continuous dependence on coal, natural gas, and other conventional energy sources.

However, remaining reliant to the use of fossil fuels and conventional fuel sources would lead to significant socio-economic and environmental risks to the region. Especially, with fossil fuel commodity prices rising sharply due to geopolitical drivers, which showed the vulnerability of the conventional power systems. This vulnerability is continuously affecting the poorer countries in the region, which are also the same countries that are most affected by the chronic and sudden impacts of climate change. Similarly, the constant use of these sources would mean an increase in greenhouse gas emissions directly contributing to climate change.

Thus, a call for a fast and just energy transition is highly needed. A fast and just energy transition would be a way for the countries in the ASEAN to attain further economic development, energy security, cheaper electricity, and energy accessibility. This is in conjunction with a fast and just energy transition by the northern countries to reduce GHG emissions and achieve the below 1.5 degrees Celsius target of global temperature increase.

The meaningful participation of civil society in the implementation of just energy transition (JET) in the region is hindered due to shrinking civic spaces and challenges related to transparency, governance, accountability, inclusion, and their capacity despite its recognized pivotal role in the process. It is important to highlight that civil society organizations and the enabling civic spaces are an important part in supporting governments in achieving their net- zero targets and nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement.

In recognition of these issues, challenges, and opportunities toward just energy transition, the civil society organizations (CSOs) in Southeast Asia firmly assert the following courses of action towards fast and just energy transition for the development of ASEAN Member States (AMS) and benefit of the communities.

Ensure multistakeholder engagement to inform planning and action

A fast, democratic, equitable, and just energy transition is impossible without meaningful multi-stakeholders’ engagement from planning to the implementation phases of energy transformation programs. It must be implemented through a democratized and decentralized process that accounts for both the supply and demand sides of the energy market and ensure that the basic needs of the most vulnerable communities in the region are met and their rights are protected.

Platforms by the AMS must encourage participation of CSOs and other non-state actors to support governments in co-developing and achieving their net-zero plans and targets. This includes the protection of the rights of the civil society organizations and allowing civic spaces to flourish. Whenever and wherever possible, governments must devise mechanisms to maximize full participation of different stakeholders in an inclusive, equitable, and safe manner, and include in key decision-making bodies to inform community perspectives on energy transition. The governments must ensure that these platforms and mechanisms are safe spaces for the CSOs and other non-state actors that will help realize our common goals at the national, regional, and global levels.

Establish robust mechanisms for transparency, accountability, and governance that encompass both public and private sectors

All information on JET must be accessible, contextualized, and popularized while ensuring that mechanisms are transparent and inclusive through accessible platforms (e.g., conventional and digital). We highly urge governments to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of communities especially the most vulnerable people, including the youth, women, people with disabilities, people of all gender identities, indigenous people, and community aspirations on accessible, affordable, sustainable, and renewable energy sources.

Robust feedback and grievance mechanisms should be established to practice accountability in relevant sectors impacted by the energy transition, including land and based used, also critical minerals, both at the community and national level. AMS must also ensure that implementation of energy projects fosters transparency, accountability, inclusive, equitable, and democratic governance. The importance of expanding spaces for civil society and private sector participation through national and regional platforms are also highly recommended.

Promote the development and adoption of appropriate and sustainable renewable energy (RE) technologies

RE technologies must be accessible for community stakeholders with sustainable financing and enabling policies in place that hold transparency and accountability frameworks. Increasing sustainable financing for utility scale and community-based RE technologies will accelerate the energy transition in the region that must foster important transparency and accountability mechanisms.

It is vital to highlight that the Southeast Asian energy sector situation presents a multitude of challenges, including ownership and control, corruption and abuse, and human rights and social justice issues around appropriate technologies for deployment, both utility scale and community-based. In the context of adopting appropriate and sustainable technologies, there is a need to establish mechanisms to ensure that the energy transition is transparent, that duty-bearers are held accountable, and provide appropriate safeguards for community participation. Mechanisms must also take into consideration technology transfers and capacity building to ensure sustainability of operations and that the community benefits from the transition.

Ensure that the green energy supply chain to accelerate the renewable energy transition is just, democratic, and equitable for the region

The energy transition is also expected to accelerate the demand and extraction of critical and transition minerals to supply RE technologies required globally. The SEA region is also poised to become an RE production hub with its rich deposits of critical minerals needed for the transition. In this context, the risk of over-extraction and inequitable distribution of benefits from the extraction is projected as the shifting energy geopolitics will pose critical justice and rights issues in the countries and regions, e.g., indigenous people and land rights.

We need to uphold the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) of countries in addressing the ecological and climate justice imperatives of the mineral extraction related to the energy transition—that while all states are responsible to address the climate crisis, there has to be bigger weight of responsibility to global carbon majors. This must also hold true for the region in the energy transition movement to continue its vision towards clean energy leadership but it has to ensure that this will not lead to new social, economic, and ecological injustices.

Implement robust capacity-building programs to navigate the complexities of the energy landscape

The lack of technical and advocacy capacity among CSOs, WROs, POs, and local communities limit understanding of the energy landscape and the impacts of massive energy transition initiatives at the country level and in the region. Energy literacy and informed country-specific JET narratives are key ingredients towards meaningful policy engagement and programmes. Capacity building and development must be embedded in energy transition policies and programs to ensure that the CSOs, WROs, POs and impacted communities are well-equipped and integrated in the emerging green economic and social transformation towards national and regional development.

Integrate gender-responsive and socially inclusive policies into every facet of energy transition planning and implementation

In achieving genuine and meaningful participation of women, people with disabilities, all gender identities, youth, indigenous people, and other marginalized groups in the energy transition movement, AMS must establish gender-responsive, conflict-sensitive and socially inclusive enabling policies and mechanisms.

The group also calls for domestic, regional, and international financial institutions to increase funding on JET and include gender equality, diversity, and social inclusion (GEDSI) frameworks as compulsory requirement in energy programs and green supply chain.

A multi-stakeholder monitoring, and accountability mechanism platform shall be set up and organized by non-state actors, as supported by the government for communities to take significant strides towards intergenerational responsibility.

Justice at the heart of energy transition movement

Justice, equity, and democracy must be at the core of energy transition, which is defined through a clear framework that is inclusive and relevant to all sectors and country contexts, and must include recognition-based justice, procedural justice, distributional justice, and remedial justice. AMS must devise participatory processes which must be led by a working group consisting of CSOs, WROs, POs, private sector, and governments, highlighting the country-specific JET experiences and aspirations that will inform an ASEAN JET narrative.

The energy transition movement is currently faced with risks and challenges, it also presents opportunities for national and regional economic development and substantive participation of the broader civil society given appropriate and meaningful platforms in accelerating a fast, equitable, democratic, and just energy transition.

43rd ASEAN Summit

As the 43rd ASEAN Summit is ongoing where member state and global leaders are discussing several regional policies and collaboration for the region, the civil society groups with great solidarity, sees an imperative in the discussion and implementation of having a fast, equitable, democratic, and just energy transition in Southeast Asia—in recognition of the need for substantial collaboration between the governments and non -state actors to mobilize resources and strengthen platforms towards just energy transition.

A fast, equitable, and just energy transition must ensure minimizing of negative impacts to communities and sectors while maximizing its benefits for community and national development. Transforming our current extractive schemes to regenerative systems which value justice, accountability, human rights, care, and solidarity will pave the way for countries and the region towards economic, social, and environmental prosperity.